Friday, February 26

Hurry! Hurry!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Ever hear the old saying "running around like a chicken with its head cut off"? The expression harks back to the days when many folks kept chickens, both for eggs and for meat. Beheading is a quick way to kill a chicken, but after the chicken's head is cut off, its body may still "run around" for a minute or so, moving frantically, until finally the body drops dead. Sound familiar?

I think sometimes this describes the life of the busy wife and mother, especially one who wants to serve God and take good care of her husband and children and live on a budget and keep her house clean and make her home an inviting, beautiful space and be a good friend and serve her community and . . . produce a good blog. There are so many "ands" in that sentence. So many things we want to do, and only 24 hours in a day.

Today I share with you some wisdom that I've read many times before, but it speaks to me anew this morning. I needed to read it again. Perhaps you need it, too.

Much of our acceptance of multitudes of obligations is due to our inability to say No. We calculated that the task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to undertake it. We calculated the need, and then calculated our time, and decided maybe we could squeeze it in somewhere. But the decision was a heady decision, not made within the sanctuary of the soul. When we say Yes or No to calls for service on the basis of heady decisions, we have to give reasons, to ourselves and to others. But when we say Yes or No to calls on the basis of inner guidance and whispered promptings of encouragement from the Center of our life, or in the basis of a lack of any inward "rising" of that Life to encourage us in the call, we have no reason to give, except one--the will of God as we discern it. Then we have begun to live in guidance. And I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness. . . .

Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm.

Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion

Love and peace and grace to you,

Thursday, February 25

Dreaming of color

This morning there's a smile on my face, a song in my heart--and paint in my hair.

When we bought our house five years ago, I had the powder room painted with the same paint that's on the walls of my master bath: Craftsman Brown by Sherwin Williams. It's a lovely rich brown, reminiscent of hot chocolate, and it looks great with the tumbled marble in my master bath. In the powder room, though, it had long ago ceased to look like chocolate to me, and had started to look more like mud.

Of course, with all the boys in this house, not much powdering of noses takes place in here, but somehow "take a leak room" just doesn't sound quite right.

Anyway, I've been wanting to paint it for some time, but I haven't been able to decide on a new color. I've dutifully bought sample pots of colors and tried them out in the room. Nothing clicked. And then the other night, the color came to me in a vision. Well, maybe not a vision, but when I was lying in bed, anyway. And I knew I wanted this:

That is to say, I wanted this color. The color of the Restoration Hardware bags. So I took myself to Restoration Hardware and told the salesgirl, "I want paint the color of your shopping bags." To which she replied, "Silver Sage. Right here." Apparently I'm not the first person to have been inspired by this color. I was in and out of the store in less than five minutes. Paint shopping has never been so easy.

And so yesterday my powder room went from muddy to


One reason the choice of color for this room was difficult was that I wanted to re-use the same accessories in this room. I knew "Silver Sage" would look great with brown, since that's the color of the Restoration Hardware lettering on the bags. I wasn't so sure how it would go with the golds and greens I have in my powder room, but it works. I really like the way the art pops off the wall with this new color.

And my funky lamp and collection of antique bottles love their new backdrop.

I must say my powder room hasn't been this clean since we moved in five years ago. My hair is another matter. I am an unbelievably messy painter. Let's just say that I usually try to choose a paint color that will go well with red hair.

What color is your powder room?

**Check out all the wonderful before-and-after projects at Thrifty Decor Chick's party!

Tuesday, February 23

Another way to look at it

I am an anniversary kind of girl. I have the kind of brain that remembers dates, and for good or bad, the anniversaries of special dates serve as touchstones in my life. Today is such a day.

One year ago today, on February 23, 2009, my husband had open-heart surgery. A 45-year-old man's having open-heart surgery is not unheard of, really. Jack's heart had gone into atrial fibrillation a couple of months before, and extensive testing revealed that his mitral valve needed to be repaired. But just ten months before Jack's surgery, our 14-year-old son had open-heart surgery. So learning that Jack needed surgery as well was a bit of a shock, because we knew what it meant. We knew what was coming.

You see, if a surgeon needs to repair the heart, he has to first stop the heart from pumping. The heart can't be moving and getting surgically repaired at the same time. Open-heart surgery requires that the surgical team stop the patient's heart, repair it, and then re-start it. Of course, a wonderful heart-lung machine with a dedicated perfusionist tending it keeps the blood circulating and the organs oxygenated during surgery. But still. That heart-stopping part is--well--heart-stopping. And worrisome. It's hard to prepare for. Jack made sure that all his affairs were in order, that his will was up-to-date, that I knew everything I would need to know in case things didn't go well. Aside from those practical things, praying is about the only thing you can do. Prayer that all will go well. Prayer that the heart-stopping and the heart-starting-back parts will be successful. Prayer that everyone involved will have peace. But you know that the surgery is life-threatening, and it's hard to deal with that fact.

This day last year was one of the longest days of my life. The Operating Room at Duke got backed up, so the surgery started much later than we were expecting. I stayed with Jack until they took him into the OR at 3:00 P.M. Then I waited. Friends waited with me, and the hours ticked by. The surgical team did a wonderful job of keeping me updated throughout the progress of the operation, which was amazingly helpful, but the time dragged. Two, then four, then six, then eight hours crept by. Finally, more than eight hours after Jack was taken to the OR, the call came that they were finishing up. Our surgeon came to the Waiting Room--vacant now except for me and one stalwart friend--just as the clock struck midnight. He brought with him the news that the surgery had taken an unexpected turn. Before the operation, all of Jack's doctors thought that his mitral valve could be repaired. And our surgeon was one of the best in the world, a real artist at repairing valves. As it turned out, he tried to repair the valve, but it didn't work. There was no choice but to replace the valve. He brought me 8x10 glossies of Jack's mitral valve before the repair and his brand-new stainless steel valve. Really.

The day after the surgery was a difficult but exciting day. Jack was moved out of Surgical ICU into a regular room. He was still very groggy from the anesthesia, he had five IV's, and he had four drainage tubes in his chest, but he was alive and well. Our surgeon came by to check on Jack in the afternoon. Although I had already told Jack about the operation, the surgeon explained it all again. Only this time he added a little more information. "Your valve was really in bad shape," he told Jack. "It's a good thing we operated. Otherwise, you would have died of heart failure."

And just like that, we learned that we'd been wrong. Our anguish had been misplaced. We'd thought of the surgery as life-threatening. Turns out that it was life-saving.

A year has gone by, a year of many ups and downs and a long but successful recovery. And after much reflection, I've realized that Jack's surgery is not the only thing that I was wrong about. Grievances I've clung to, sure that clinging to them prevented their being repeated. Bitterness I've nurtured, certain that I was just protecting myself. Anger I've held on to, knowing that doing so was absolutely necessary.

But I was wrong. Letting those things go is not life-threatening. It's life-saving.

"Come to Me," says the Savior, "all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus's way is the way of letting go of those grievances, setting aside that bitterness, ridding my heart of the anger. And while His way may seem hard, it's actually the easier way. It's the way out of burdensome weariness. It's the way of rest.

And on this anniversary, rest is a very good gift.

Monday, February 22

Make your own upholstered headboard

Five years ago, we moved into a new house. A brand-new house is marvelous for many reasons. A clean slate! New roof! New electrical and plumbing fixtures! New flooring! New windows and walls and doors and ceilings! The freshness of it is wonderful.

The not-so-wonderful parts are hidden at first. For instance, those brand-new, energy-efficient windows are naked. Those freshly-painted walls are bare. And so the adventure of moving into a new house may include the fact that all your money goes to pay for necessities like blinds or shutters to cover your naked windows, and you have very little left for the fun of decorating the new space.

One of the reasons we chose our house was because we could tell that our existing furniture would fit nicely into our new spaces. The scale and proportion of this house fit our stuff just right. Still, there were blank spaces here and there.

One of those was the guestroom. I was beyond thrilled to have a house with a dedicated guest bedroom and bath en suite. I love having a space set aside that's always ready for guests. I already had twin beds, a nightstand, and a dresser. But the beds were just frames and mattresses--not exactly the luxe look I wanted in a guest bedroom.

Then I happened upon a roll of fabric on sale for less than $1/yard. With that fabric in hand, I bought a sheet of plywood and had the nice man at Home Depot cut me two pieces 41" wide x 44" tall. Using a dinner plate as a template, I rounded off the top edges with a jigsaw. I had some old foam mattress pads in the attic, so I cut one of those in half and glued foam onto the front of the plywood, making a nice, cushy surface. After that, I upholstered the foamy board with my $1 fabric and added a little trim, and presto! I had comfortable, pretty headboards that cost very little.

Fast forward five years. I still liked the idea of upholstered headboards, but the gold fabric was looking a little tired. I still liked floral fabric I'd used to make throw pillows and window treatments, and I still liked the room's other furnishings. So I wanted to keep that, but I wanted to change the headboards.
Enter this beautiful fabric, found last week at my local discount fabric store:

54" wide, $7.99/yard. Score.
If you've never upholstered anything, a headboard like this is an excellent place to start. It's really as simple as wrapping a present.

Lay your fabric out on a flat surface (I used the guest room floor), wrong side up. Center the item to be covered on the fabric. Then simply pull the fabric onto the item you're covering, making sure to keep the edges straight (use the fabric pattern to guide you) as you go. Secure the fabric with a staple gun. I suggest using just a few staples at first, because if you end up having to re-do a section, it's much easier to pull out just a few staples. Wrap, pull, and staple all the way around your item. When you get to the final side, pull extra hard to make sure the fabric is taut and wrinkle-free. Turn the item over to be sure that the fabric placement is right, then go back and add plenty of staples to make sure everything is secure.

I wanted a little something extra to finish off these headboards, and I found cording that included the green of my new fabric with the red and gold colors in the throw pillows that I wanted to re-use.

It was $4/yard, and I bought 3 1/2 yards for each headboard. The cording I simply stapled to the back of the headboard, leaving just the decorative part peeking out on the sides.

This part was very rewarding because it took so little time: less than five minutes and it was done.
Voila! A brand-new headboard!

You may have seen headboards that were built onto special legs or mounted directly to the wall with special brackets. I'm here to tell you that you can make a great headboard simply by upholstering a piece of plywood and leaning it up against the wall. No mounting required. Push your bedframe and mattress against it; the weight of the bed will hold it in place.

The finished product:

A new look for about $25 per headboard. What do you think?

Linked to:

Friday, February 19

Late to the party

Beth at The Stories of A to Z is hosting a "Get Your Face On" party this week. Beth originally wrote a post called "Decorating My Face" that demonstrated just what a difference make-up can make to a woman's appearance. This week, she gave her readers a chance to get in on the fun and show what a difference it can make to decorate their own faces.

I read Beth's original post with interest, and I checked out several party participants, never planning to join myself. But then I realized that perhaps there was something I could contribute to this party. Because I noticed that most of the party participants were young. Not many older girls were participating. Now, please note: my definition of "young" has changed over the years. I conveniently upped the age of "youngness" to coincide with my own age. As sad as it is to realize it, though, I must now admit that the only people who consider me "young" are senior citizens. I like to think I'm young at heart, but the calendar says I'm 46, and that's past the point of youthfulness.

So here I am, an older party guest.

And here I am fresh from the shower:

I am not the person to consult for make-up advice. I am fairly fickle and awfully cheap when it comes to beauty products. Currently I'm using L'Oreal mineral makeup for foundation and concealer, but that may change soon. Still, I get the job done. So on to the "after" shots:

Wait. Am I the only one who struggled with taking photos of herself? First I did this:

Duh, Richella.

Next I took a lot of shots that cut off my head. Then, once I found myself in the lens, I struggled to get the light right. Although I must say that this one shot taken with the flash makes me look as if the presence of God is nigh:

Kind of a Song of Bernadette look, don't you think?

Finally I reached the point of frustration (or silliness, as the case may be):

And I finally came up with a couple of shots that work fairly well:

So that's me. And although I can't offer you any great make-up tips, I can tell you a few things from this vantage point:

  • Wear sunscreen. Believe me, when you're in your mid-40's, you're going to wish you had worn sunscreen. It doesn't have to be expensive--I use Olay Complete, which was recommended by my dermatologist. It contains a physical barrier to sunlight (micronized zinc) along with a chemical barrier.
  • Wear mascara. In my opinion, no other product makes as big a difference in the overall appearance of your face. Most women can wear black mascara and look great. With my fair skin, I opt for black-brown mascara. And curl your lashes before you put the mascara on. If you've never used an eyelash curler, don't be scared. You can do it.
  • If you have great eyebrows, be thankful. When I was 15 years old, I tweezed my eyebrows to the point that they were pencil-thin. And they have never fully grown back. Please, if you have daughters, help them with their eyebrows. Don't let them get tweezer-happy. I have to use a stencil and eyebrow make-up just to get the rather thin result you see here.
  • Just do it. I know how sometimes it feels as if you just don't have time for make-up. When my kids were very small, I quit wearing make-up for awhile, thinking I didn't have time for it. But then one day I stopped in front of the mirror and realized that I wasn't looking my best. So I timed myself doing an everyday routine, and I discovered that it took less than six minutes to complete. A pretty small investment of time for such a big impact, really.

Does all this talk of make-up seem frivolous to you? I don't think it is. Looking one's best can be a huge spirit-lifter. And for someone like me, who has battled life-long insecurity about her appearance, make-up can be a real help. Of course, all the make-up in the world can't cover a heart full of discontent or a spirit of ugliness. Real beauty is found within.

But a quick lick of mascara never hurts.

DIY toile candles

I love pretty candles, but I don't love paying for them.  So I decided to make my own!

Actually burning candles is a hard thing for me. I recently heard a TV designer say, "Candles are meant to be burned, not dusted." Oops. BUSTED. But honestly, candles are so expensive! I love candlelight, but I find myself reluctant to burn candles, because then I have to replace them.

Check out this toile candle, though. Isn't it pretty burning at night? 

I made these myself by decoupaging napkins onto plain $1 candles. Seriously--all it took was a couple of cheap candles, a pretty napkin, some Mod Podge, and a few minutes.

Click here to see exactly how I made these.

**Note:  When burning these candles, be sure to keep the wick trimmed very short.  You don't want the flame from the candle to reach the paper!  And never, ever leave a burning candle unattended.**

Now I can burn these all I want, and when I need new ones, I can just make some more! Thank you, Manuela, for the idea!

Thursday, February 18

The easiest way to update a light fixture

Some home improvement projects are labors of love. Some are matters of necessity. Some are occasions for blood, sweat, toil, and tears.  I've just completed one that stunned me by its simplicity.

Have you ever seen this product?

It's a kit to convert an existing recessed light into a hanging fixture. Without taking out the existing can light. Without doing any wiring. Without patching the ceiling. Without any blood, sweat, toil, or tears.

I like my kitchen. It's big and open. It was built in 2005, when recessed lighting was really a big deal. And in this kitchen, I have 18 can lights. No other kind of ceiling lighting, just 18 cans. I'm not complaining, because can lights are perfectly acceptable. But I longed for something a little different just to break up the monotony and add some interest across that vast white tundra of ceiling.

I purchased three of these conversion kits. I got mine at Lowe's for $17 each. The kit doesn't include the glass globe, but Lowe's has a big selection of globes that will fit these lights. I chose fairly simple ones that were less than $8 each. So each fixture cost less than $25. And the labor charge for installation? None. No professional required. All I had to do was screw the light kit into the existing fixture. The hardest part was adjusting the cords to be all the same length. . . which wasn't really hard at all, just a matter of some measuring.

Voila! Let there be (different) light:

Here's a closer shot of the fixtures with the light bulbs turned off, so you can see the shades:

I chose a simple gold shade to blend well with the granite in my countertops, although I know that in this photo they get a little lost against the backdrop of the cabinetry. In real life, they're far removed from the cabinets, so they don't get lost at all. Still, now I'm thinking just how easy it would be to change those shades out for a completely different look. Maybe it would be fun to have red shades for Christmastime? It would cost less than $25 and would take almost no time to change the shades.

Meanwhile, I couldn't be happier with my presto-chango home improvement. Tell me what you think!

Wednesday, February 17

A reasonable contribution

I have three sons.

One day, I hope to have three daughters-in-law. And I would hope that those daughters-in-law would have been Girl Scouts.

So it seems reasonable that I would be a person who would gladly buy Girl Scout cookies, doesn't it?

Ten boxes seems pretty reasonable, don't you think?

Tuesday, February 16

Go team

My oldest son is a freshman at Duke University.

Duke is a wonderful school, and I'm grateful for Will to be there. Of course I knew that Duke men's basketball was a big deal. I knew that Duke's rivalry with the University of North Carolina was a big deal. But I had no idea just how much of a big deal it is.

Duke plays Carolina twice during the regular basketball season. These are always good games. Both Duke and Carolina have won multiple national championships, with Carolina's most recent championship being just last year. So the Duke-Carolina games are important. How important, though, I never understood until this year.

See this? This is a photo I snapped with my phone just a couple of nights ago. This is a scene from "Krzyzewskiville," named for Duke's famous basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. The gray and blue tent on the left side of the photo is currently my son's home.

The Duke Blue Devils play basketball in Cameron Indoor Stadium, a beautiful but small arena. Students must stand in line in order to gain admittance to home basketball gains. And for the Duke-Carolina game, the "line" starts six weeks before the game. Believe it or not, the students live in tents for six weeks in order to secure their places in line.

The "tenting" system is very organized. Students band together with their friends to form tent communities of 12 people per tent. One student must be in the tent at all times, subject to random tent checks. And six students must sleep in the tent every night in order to hold their places in line.

Can you imagine? Sleep in a tent in January and February? Seriously?

Yes, seriously. And although I can't imagine doing it myself, I'm glad that my son has the chance to be part of such a tight-knit community. I have a feeling that twenty or thirty years from now, when he's telling his kids about his college days, tenting will be a story he tells and retells. Long after other memories fade, this one will likely remain fresh.

So have at it, Duke fans. No one knows how the Big Game will go each year. But the students will be there, doing their part to pull for the team. And assuming he doesn't get sick from sleeping outdoors during the winter, my son will be there, loving every minute of it.

What more could a mother want?

--Unwrapped with Emily at Chatting at the Sky

Monday, February 15

Whose day?

I love a three-day weekend. There's something so freeing about having Sunday night be a carefree time, rather than a time spent getting ready for the coming week. Last night, my husband and middle son made a batch of waffles--at 10:30 P.M. They had such a good time that I didn't even mind the big mess they made in the kitchen.

All things considered, I think the celebration of Federal holidays on Mondays is a good idea. It's nice to have a holiday linked to a weekend, and the particular date of the thing we're celebrating is usually not so important as the fact that we're celebrating it. Independence Day and Veterans Day are notable exceptions: July 4 and November 11 were highly significant dates in our country's history.

But with February's holiday, I wonder if the reason for the holiday has become lost. When I was a little kid, everyone knew that February 22 was George Washington's birthday, just like everyone knew that February 12 was Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Only Washington's birthday made the cut to become a "real" holiday, but both dates were considered important. Now I think that the generic "Presidents Day" serves to honor the office of the presidency, which is fine--the office is a big a deal, after all. But I wonder if maybe we've lost something in not paying some particular respect to Washington.

George Washington was human, with many faults and foibles. But he was a courageous man living in a time that called for courage. He was a leader of leaders, and he worked hard to take this country from an upstart group of rebellious colonies to one nation, with a government unlike any other. The American experiment was an important one, and he stood at the helm during a critical time.
Sometimes I fear that, in our rush to be informed global citizens, we sometimes neglect reflecting upon what made this country of ours a special place. Blind nationalism isn't the goal; it's healthy for us to recognize our faults and to work to correct them. But sometimes I sense a distinct anti-Americanism among many U.S. citizens. I can't help but think that that attitude results from ignorance. Sadly, much of what is taught as U.S. history is actually revisionist history. The fact is that U.S. history is peppered with things that are unfortunate, ill-advised, and sometimes downright wrong. But it's also laced with honor and ideals, many of which are embodied in the person of George Washington.

So today I salute the Father of Our Country: an imperfect but remarkable man who gave sacrificially to help establish an imperfect but remarkable nation. I cannot tell a lie: I'd love to see a little flag-flying in his honor.

What do y'all think?

Thursday, February 11

A little bit of love

Do you decorate for Valentine's Day?

When my kids were little, I went all out for every holiday. Valentine's Day, President's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Flag Day. . . you name it, we decorated for it. Now that the kids are bigger. . . not so much. My guys love Christmas decorations, and I think they like my autumn decorations and perhaps Easter. But Valentine's Day? Do they care?

To tell the truth, I don't know if they care or not. Maybe it makes no difference to them at all. But I like to have a little holiday decor, if only as a way to change things up a bit.

My mother's dough cabinet is my favorite spot to decorate for holidays, and to it I've added just a bit of Valentine's spice:

The "Hugs and Kisses" jar I've had for several years; it comes out just for Valentine's Day each year. This year I added the ceramic heart platter from the One Spot at Target, along with the heart-shaped tealights. I filled my antique canning jars with candy conversation hearts from Dollar Tree.

The candlesticks were recent Goodwill finds, $2.00 for the pair. They started life like this:

I painted them Heirloom White (what else)? I also used Heirloom white to transform a plate purchased for 89 cents at Goodwill into a cream-colored platter, then added the chalkboard paint to the middle.

By the way, have you seen the chalkboard platters you can purchase ready-made from Pottery Barn?

Aren't they adorable? But $99 for two?! I think I'll stick with my 89-cent plate.

So I spent less than $10 and have a Valentine's display that satisfies my craving for holiday decor without being over the top.

What about you? Do you decorate for small holidays?

Wednesday, February 10

Decorating Dilemma

My friend Amanda at Serenity Now is hosting a Decorating Dilemmas party today. She's invited us to write a post about a decorating problem we're facing and to get input from one another as to the best way to solve the problem.

I love decorating my house, and I'm usually pretty decisive about it. But there's one thing about my kitchen that keeps bugging me. Look at these photos (taken on a day when the kitchen was clean):

Now I should say that I love my kitchen and I'm thankful for it. It's very functional, and I think it's pretty. But see those barstools? Three of them, nice and big and sturdy. But they kind of blend in with everything around them. Here's a close-up of one of them:

See what I mean? Well, I'm wondering if I should paint them. For instance, I could paint them black like the chairs around the table on my screened porch:

What do y'all think? Would it be good to paint these? If so, would you go with black? Of course, I could always start by re-upholstering the seats, and that would make them stand out a little more. Yes, now that I look at that picture, I'm sure I should re-cover the seats. But what about the wood?? I'm unsure, and I'd love your advice! Please tell me what you think.

And be sure to visit Amanda's party and help out some of the other girls with decorating dilemmas on their hands. Amanda, thanks for getting us together!